Retailers urged to buy British

Supermarkets called on to ditch poinsettia imports as biomass helps growers manage costs.

Poinsettias: more British crops
Poinsettias: more British crops

UK growers have called on supermarkets to ditch poinsettia imports and buy British after the long-term decline in growing the Christmas plant ended, largely thanks to many nurseries installing biomass boilers.

In recent years, rising costs and foreign competition had stopped UK growers producing poinsettias, but the situation has now turned around. Pinewood Nurseries is growing 50,000 again after cutting back to 25,000 last year.

Earley Ornamentals, which has a new biomass boiler, is growing 25,000, while Woodlark is growing 17,000 10-litre poinsettias this year for the basket market, up from 12,000 in 2013.

Roundstone Nurseries is growing 100,000 after growing none at all in 2013, while other larger growers have seen the market stabilise.

Hill Brothers director Greg Hill is growing 750,000 for Sainsbury's and has installed new biomass this year. "Retailers interested in supporting UK horticulture should certainly look at British-grown," he said.

"Price is still a big issue for a lot of people so no doubt you can buy a cheap poinsettia out of Holland quite early in the season, but later it's a different matter. We supply until 19 December and the cost of heating them is not insignificant. A few other retailers probably ought to discuss buying British but some people aren't as willing to engage in conversations about the cost of production.

"We have a very good relationship with Sainsbury's and sales are good at the moment. They're still 100 per cent British-grown with British flags and a home-grown logo. A few people with biomass are relooking at the total cost and can do a few more now."

Young Plants managing director Alex Newey supplies 2.6 million cuttings to growers - most of the 3.5 million plant UK market. He is growing 100,000 at Roundstone for Sainsbury's via Hills.

"The market is fairly stable and biomass is clearly helping growers make some money," he said. "There's a UK position to maintain. We know that ideally if retailers buy UK-grown product it is better, more robust and grown for longer, and has fewer miles to travel. It would be good for UK growers to have more UK supply."

Staplehurst Nurseries owner Marcel Franke said the market had "bottomed out" and a few growers are coming back in. "There was a time when UK growers were falling by the wayside but now one or two are having a little go at it," he added.

UK growers Demand, contracts and biomass fuel production hike

The British Protected Ornamentals Association has surveyed 50 UK growers for the Stars for Europe programme.

They are producing three million plants (of the eight million sold in the UK), a 15 per cent increase. This has been helped by higher demand for home-grown plants, greater availability of supply contracts and increased biomass use. The balance between garden centre and grocery multiple is about 20:80 for domestic crops. Taking imports into consideration, the sales split is 10:90.

Asda said it has increased UK-grown poinsettias sold from 37 to 45 per cent since 2012-13, using KJ Curson, Staplehurst Nursery, Opperman Plants and Lovania. An Asda representative said: "We've been able to increase our British supply due to more British growers investing in biofuel technology."

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